In and Around the Dell Precision M6700

The internal hardware goes a long way, certainly, but the Dell Precision M6700 is unfortunately on the back foot when it comes to shell design. Take a look at our review of the HP EliteBook 8760w then come back here, and you'll see that Dell's aesthetic comes up short in more ways than one. You'll see it's not just about looks, either; HP's design is more functional.

Part of what kills is that the Precison M6700's shell may incorporate magnesium alloy and aluminum alloy, but it feels largely plastic. Dell's site lists the M6700 as having been subjected to Mil-spec 810G testing, but not if it meets that standard, while HP confirms that their current-generation 8770w does. They apparently use aluminum for trim and the back of the lid, but as a whole the notebook just doesn't feel as all around sturdy as its competitor is.

That said, when you do open it, the interior surfaces are flex-free, just uninspiring. The M6700 is two-toned, but the two tones aren't really complimentary. They use a gunmetal gray that's very dark, so that in soft light it's essentially indistinguishable from the black plastic used for the keyboard trim and bottom panel. As a whole, the two tones aren't unattractive, but there's a kind of cheap feeling to the materials, regardless of whether or not they actually are. HP's EliteBook looks and feels sturdy, with the aluminum trim and interior shell.

People who lament HP's shift to a chiclet keyboard may be happy at first with the M6700's traditional key style, but Dell's keyboard layout is confused both for them and for the end user. The "Page Up" and "Page Down" keys sandwich the up arrow, while the row normally reserved for document navigation above the number pad is instead a shortcut for the calculator and then media controls, which just plain don't belong on a notebook like this. Those could very easily and should very easily have been Fn+Function Key combinations. Overall the keyboard is plenty usable, but the layout is off-putting. On a less expensive notebook it's something that can be tolerated and adapted to; on a notebook that starts north of $1,600, it's unacceptable. As for the touchpad, it's mostly fine and easy to use, but it's actually on the small side and could stand to be wider. Again, though, Dell's design lacks the pleasant surface treatment of HP's.

Finally, the M6700 could make up some ground by at least being easy to service, but that turns out not to really be the case. HP's design is as easy as pushing a latch and popping off the bottom panel, but the M6700 was actually a little confusing. There are two screws hidden inside the battery slot that must be removed, and then the panel slides up and off. The interior layout supports three 2.5" drives and an mSATA drive, but what's the point of having one drive caddy slide out of the side of the case if you have to remove an internal screw to unlock it? It's not a horrible interior design and definitely looks reinforced, but the M6700 just feels a little more cobbled together than I'd like.

Introducing the Dell Precision M6700 Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • ShieTar - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    You are not supposed to actually pay the $2k, you are supposed to get a "Buy DELL exclusively, only pay 50%" contract and then pay $1k. And then pay $100 for a 5$ keyboard.

    Why would you expect to get much resale value out of it anyways? It is clearly a business notebook, with a very reduced value for private use. For every 20 business notebooks flushed into eBay when they are 3 years old, there is maybe 1 person who is actually looking for a good 3 year old busines notebook. The other 19 just go cheap to students.
  • Calista - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    I love the crappy resale value of business notebooks. Paid $170 for a Latitude E4200 with a 128GB SSD and 5GB RAM. And it's still covered by a two year next-day warranty. It's with me daily and I don't care the least if it gets scratched or dinged.
  • jacobdrj - Tuesday, December 18, 2012 - link

    How? Where?
  • sjalsevac - Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - link

    I waited a long time for Dell to bring out its latest Precision. I had a series of them, the latest being the M4400. When the M4700 came our recently I ordered a fully loaded one. It came and was very regrettably sent back within a couple of days. Here is why:

    1. The unit is a bulky, heavy beast. I could not bear the thought of lugging this thing around on all my travels. The M4400 proved to be too heavy and bulky and its huge and heavy power supply added a lot to the burden. Two generations later I assumed Dell caught on with modern developments. Nope. Not even remotely.
    2. The layout of the keyboard with the touch pad off center over to the left was weird and not logical.
    3. The time of startup and shut down was still way too long and no better than my old M4400 despite the M4700 having been ordered with high level current processor, video card, memory and other options.

    In sum, very, very disappointing. Dell does not seem to have its customers needs in mind when designing these things. I presume engineers' preferences, rather than customers' needs were allowed to be the dominant priorities - a sure sales losing strategy.

    I have been with Dell for many years. I very reluctantly switched for the first time to a Macbook pro (Retina). It starts and shuts down instantly, weighs a lot less and is far less bulky than the Dell and has many other benefits such as long battery life and 750 GB of solid state drive. There are also many downsides to the MacBook Pro and the transfer to Apple has been brutal. Still, carrying around that very powerful computer has been a Great relief. I no longer experience feeling as though my arm and shoulders are going to give out carrying my laptop on travel assignments. The Macbook's instant start and shutdown all means a lot for my very heavy and constantly changing work routines.

    If Dell introduced a comparable new Precision I would consider going back to Dell. I prefer the Windows operating system. Windows 7 is responsible for that. I have been very impressed with many aspects of it but not its terribly slow startup and shut down. However, I waited for a number of years and could wait no longer for Dell to do what was naturally expected to do.

    They just don't seem to understand or want to understand the current needs of customers. Very strange. I would say Dell risks going the way of RIM.
  • Zodiark1593 - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    Obviously, you don't need the Quadro, or one of the fastest Mobile CPUs on the market if you so easily went Macbook. This workstation is meant for if you actually need a rendering machine on the go, and in this case, weight is sacrificed in the name of performance.
  • jabber - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    So let's get this straight.

    Basically you made an expensive blind purchase and that's Dell's fault?

    You didn't bother to check the specs for size and weight? Didn't think to check an option for SSD or install one yourself?

    I don't think the problem is with Dell really.
  • ijozic - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    I guess he needs a Macbook Pro counterpart and not a workstation and blames Dell for not having converted its workstation to something like Asus U500.

    While Dell might want to consider jumping that bandwagon, I see no reason why he would expect them to kill the serious workstation line for something flashy and overheating when subjected to a more serious load.
  • peterfares - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    If the MBPr is useful for what you do, then you didn't need a Dell Precision.
  • Stuka87 - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    1: Its a workstation, all mobile workstations are bulky. They are intended to be desktop machines that you can move around.

    2: This is normal for any machine that has a num pad. The touch pad is centered with the keyboard. If it was centered on the machine your palm would be sitting on it.

    3: Sounds like you ordered it with a standard hard drive. Which is the limiting factor when booting up. Get it with an SSD and you will boot up in just a handful of seconds.

    Over all it sounds like you are just shopping for the wrong type of machine. It doesn't sound like you need a workstation.

    I own an M4600 (Same chassis, only with Sandy Bridge) and I am very happy with it. Best Dell laptop I have ever owned. Typically use it as a desktop connected to two 24" displays. But then take it home to work remote when needed.
  • ndornquast - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    Seriously ugly brick. I am really shocked that this would be produced (on purpose) today. This is the type of workstation required by graphic artists and architects. Are we to suppose there is no need for beautiful form with this group of users.. purely function.

    And what's with the small, 3-button trackpad?

    Not to be the FanBoi.. but Dell needs to take a page from Apple's book. Or at least revive the Adamo (possibly Dell's only foray into the land of style).

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